Mary Faust Carradine is Featured Artist for this Saturday's Second Saturday Soiree. We were able to visit with her via email about her life as an artist.
Tell us a little about your life before you became an artist.
My first recollection of someone recognizing that I may have artistic talent was in Kindergarten. At an open house my teacher told my mother I had the ability to differentiate form and reproduce what I saw. When the other kids were drawing stick figures, I was drawing people with recognizable body parts and facial features, although clumsily and inexperienced. Thus began my art education.
Did you do art or "artsy" things growing up?
When I attended school, art was still part of the curriculum. I always excelled in art classes, and in eight-grade was placed in the advanced class. I remained in advanced classes through high school. My first "commercial" jobs where making hand drawn posters for the Community League events in my hometown, where my mom was an active member. I got to experience constructive criticism at a young age. I realized pleasing the "boss", in this case my mom, could be a challenge. Learning to take criticism helped during critiques and in jobs. I also drew a few cartoons for my high school newsletter, and made a few screen printed posters for high school events, where I developed my first interest in printmaking. Eventually the interest I developed in doing posters led to a career in the graphic arts later in my life. I attended the University of Wisconsin Stout. In the Printmaking class, I experienced stone lithography for the first time and just loved the feel of the crayon on the stone and still do lithography, occasionally.
When did you start to create art, in particular printmaking, and why or how did you make the decision to do this?
I worked in various major retailers' display departments, and had a freelance display business for many years. When store display became less about creativity and more about merchandising, I changed directions and became a graphic artist. During that time I worked as the Publication Specialist for a large school district, I designed and produced the district's newspaper for the Communications department. One of my functions was to take pictures during school events, at the many campuses in the district, to be included with the articles; I developed an interest in photography. Later down the road, after being reorganized out of my job in the marketing department at JCPenney's corporate offices, I decided to concentrate on my own work, and sold my photographic work through fine art fairs across Texas. Saturation of this market –and various severe weather events– prompted me to stop doing fairs, go back to my roots and concentrate on making art. Because of my background in publishing, and prior experiences in high school and college, printmaking seemed a natural progression.
Who was your first mentor or person of inspiration?
Unable to afford the presses and other expensive equipment involved in printmaking, I attend Brookhaven College, and am in my tenth year in Printmaking. My mentor is David Newman, who teaches Printmaking and Photography, and is the Gallery Curator at Brookhaven Community College. He has expanded my horizon and broadened my knowledge of printmaking techniques. I also enjoy having in-depth art discussions with him. Michelle Martin, Professor of Art at the University of Tulsa, and Wisconsin artist Paul Yank both contributed to my current direction in mono prints. Jon Goebel, Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii Hilo, influenced the direction of my imagery. He was the first to tell me my images should include a narrative. Lithographic artist, Katherine Polk, showed me that delicate mark making can be very powerful. Caravaggio has influenced my background composition, mysterious shapes within a darkened background. I relate to Georgia O'Keefe because we're both from Wisconsin and made our way to Texas, and try to emulate the fluidity of her lines and color in her work.
Where do you get your inspiration for each piece?
Having grown up in Wisconsin, I feel especially attuned to nature. Elements from nature are featured in most of my work. Travel plays a huge role for inspiration. I use my photographic images as a resource for my artwork.
Tell us a bit about how you approach making a print and the process that you use to work through one.
I begin the process for my mono prints by placing different textures and shapes on an inked –using a split or rainbow roll– plexi-glass surface; placing a sheet of paper over it and running it through a press. Once I have the background made, I look at the patterns created and try to see the image in it. Sometimes the image is immediately revealed; sometimes it takes awhile for me to see it. After I have an image in my mind, I tape the background print to a piece of transparent vellum and draw the image on it. I remove the background print from the vellum, turn the drawing over and trace it with magic marker; and then tape it back-side up to a piece of plexi-glass, which becomes my plate. Using rollers and brayers, I ink the plate. After I have the ink where I want it, I take a rag and wipe away the excess ink, where I don't want it. Once I have the plate inked just the way I want it; I wet the paper, put the image side on top the inked surface and run it through the press. I start with the lightest ink color. By layering the ink, blending different colored inks to make new colors or darker colors to create value, you can get your desired result. This technique is similar to reduction wood-block relief prints. I can also use stencils, for crisper edges, or dab with my hand, rag or sponge to blend or make softer edges. I normally have more than 15 runs though the press. Although time consuming, I find it very rewarding.